Monday, October 28, 2013

Warm Hands

Several years ago, I worked in an old portable trailer outside a middle school. The drafty trailer was divided into two small rooms connected by a short narrow space. This portable did not have running water so we used the restrooms inside the middle school. In the winter, cold air came up from the floor so I wore long wool socks and kept an old shawl over my lap. Outside doors on either end of the trailer opened directly into the rooms. Eighteen itinerant teachers shared the space so we let in more than adequate amounts of fresh air as we came and went from home visits. We arranged file cabinets to make a little entry space to protect those sitting closest to the doors but still the portable was chilly in the winter.

During one of those cold winters, my sister knit me a pair of fingerless mitts from a blue/gray cashmere yarn. I kept them in my desk and wore them often. Her gift, made by hand, was a great kindness. I knew I was loved and my hands were warm. When I retired I brought the mitts home and still wear them on chilly mornings as I work at my desk.  

This autumn I knit a pair of fingerless mitts combining leftover yarn from two previous projects. I added four stitches to the palm for a better fit with this yarn and my hands. I wear them while driving. I knit a second pair using pale pink alpaca yarn. I finished the first mitt and the cuff of the second before I realized I hadn't twisted the second cable. Alpaca yarn doesn't have as much memory as yarn spun from wool. If I ripped out and reknit the yarn, the twist might have loosened and made the mitts less sturdy. Instead, I decided to call the omitted cable a design element and keep them. I'll see how they wear with only one cabled twist.

While knitting the pink pair, I thought about knitters and hands. As a knitter, I applaud both knitwear designers who create patterns and the dyers and spinners who create yarns. I knit by hand rather than by machine. While many knitters, knit gifts for family and friends, others knit for charity, giving hats and mittens in order to lend a hand to someone else. What would the world be like if we were all willing to extend tolerance and grace with a warm hand of friendship?

All musing aside, I am enjoying the fingerless mitts. I knit the deep melon colored mitts for an elderly friend with arthritic hands. Over the years, we have shared quilting and knitting projects. Lately arthritis makes it difficult for her to piece and quilt by hand. She still knits so I hope these fit and keep her warm in the mountains of Montana. I don't have a recipient in mind for the smaller cabled mitts but I'm sure I will find someone who will enjoy wearing them. The wool yarn is leftover from the first lace shawl I knit in 2002 so I am pleased to have used up the remaining skein. I plan to knit the same mitts in a solid colored yarn so the cable is more visible. Currently, I am knitting a wee green hat for my youngest grandson to wear on Halloween. He is only two and a half months old but Halloween is four days away so I will knit for him on this autumn evening. In the meantime, I wish you warm hands and a Happy Halloween.   

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happy Zinnias

Weekend temperatures are predicted to range between 39 and 55 degrees. I plan to finish a few outdoors chores on these cooler days. Hopefully, the zinnias, roses, and a few sprigs of lavender will continue to bloom in my yard for another week or so. If not, I will let them go. I rarely cover flowers but let nature have her way with frost.

 I planted zinnias because the bright flowers require little work but bloom all summer. For example, I planned to thin the plants but never did so. The zinnias didn't seem to mind. After one summer storm with wind, my husband and I were staking up tomato plants. Since the zinnias had also blown over, we wrapped twine around the flowers and two short stakes at either end of the plants to bring them back to an upright position. The hearty flowers never stopped blooming and grew even taller. Perhaps the closely planted stalks support each other in the wind.

Zinnias also remind me of my Mom. She struggled to grow vegetables and flowers in the hard clay soil around our home. She liked zinnias and frequently planted them. If I remember correctly, they were one of the flowers that thrived and bloomed. Toward the end of her life, Mom had a stand of red zinnias. After she passed away, I found a jar of zinnia seeds on an old table where she kept plants and gardening things. On the top of the jar, was a piece of masking tape with my name. She must have picked the seed heads early in the Fall before she got sick. On a sad dreary day, I took those seeds home and planted them in my garden. Twice I gathered red zinnia seeds and replanted them the following Spring. Then because red zinnias made me sad, I quit gathering the seeds. Eight or nine years have passed.

This year when I selected cucumber seeds at the garden center, the pictures of zinnias on seed packets tugged at my heart. I purchased and planted a packet of a large multicolored variety. The bright colors made pretty summer bouquets for several family dinners. In September, I put some in a Mason Jar and tied bright ribbon around the jar for my grandson's third birthday party. My sister remarked on the bright flowers and we talked a minute about Mom. Earlier this week I picked another bouquet of zinnias. My daughter, Kate says the flowers look happy. She is right. These zinnias make me happy and my Mom would have loved them.